Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review: Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires by Molly Roe

Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires
by Molly Roe
Release Date: November 24, 2008
2008 Tribute Books
Printed Copy; 159 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-9814619-3-9
Genre: Young Adult Historical
Source: Printed Review Copy from Publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Fourteen-year-old Katie McCafferty risks job, family, and eventually her very life to rescue a lifelong friend.  Disguised as a draft resister, Katie infiltrates a secret Irish organization to prevent bloodshed.  Tragedies challenge her strength and ingenuity, and she faces a crisis of conscience.  Can Katie balance her sense of justice with the law?

My Thoughts
I do have some knowledge of the struggle of miners and the difficulties they faced, especially before the unions and other organizations began to take shape earlier in the twentieth century.  My grandfather was a nickel miner in Sudbury, and anyone studying French would probably have come across Germinal by Emile Zola.  And of course, there are the films, such as October Sky, which depict some of the struggles that miners faced in their day to day lives.

Call Me Kate deals with a subject that I was uniquely unfamiliar with, however, the struggle of Irish immigrant miners, many of whom did not have American citizenship, who were forced to draft into the army during the Civil War.  It also dealt with the day-to-day struggles of women who lost their spouses in mining accidents or their spouses or sons who were hurt to the point where they could no longer work and the families came near to starvation as the mining organizations did little to help these people out. 

Katie is a character with whom I could readily identify.  She is brave, bold, confident, and determined to help her family in their struggles no matter what.  She is also very funny, and I particularly enjoyed the scene where she thought the neighbour was coming over to ask for her hand in marriage, but actually came to hire her as a maid; it made me laugh out loud at her plight.  Her intent to infiltrate an Irish organization to prevent bloodshed could have harmed her entire family, and I had to admire her pluck and courage as she did what she had to do to prevent close friends from getting hurt or from going to prison.  She is an admirable person for young girls to model.

I enjoyed this story as I really had no idea many of the people from the North were so adamant against the war, but then my knowledge of the Civil War is limited to what I have read in books or in trips to Gettysburg and Fort Sumter.  I think this is a great way to communicate to younger children what conditions were like during the war without completely scaring them, yet getting across the message that times were difficult.  The story is easy to follow and offers easy descriptions and intrigues for the younger mind to follow and keep engaged.  I read it to my son and he found it interesting and descriptive, to the point where he had many questions.  We had many a lively discussion on the Civil War and the plight of miners (and the recent tragedy of the Chilean miners helped fuel this sudden interest in miners). 

Call Me Kate was an interesting and informative novel, not overly infused with blood and gore so as not to scare the reader, but still manages to get the message across about how difficult the life of an Irish immigrant miner was during this time period.   It would make a great addition to any young person's library.

Molly Roe is the pen name of Mary Garrity Slaby, a veteran language arts and reading teacher.  She holds a Ph.D. in education from Temple University.  She has pursued the hobby of geneaology for the past decade.  Digging into the past has given Mary a newfound respect for her ancestors and a better understanding of history.  Call Me Kate is the first in the author's trilogy of historical novels loosely based on the lives of the strong women who preceded her.

To visit with Molly, go to:




  1. Stephanie - what a great review! Thanks for sharing 'Call Me Kate' with your blog readers. We appreciate your support of the book.

    I liked how you mentioned that the book showed a different side of the North during the Civil War. You're right, war damages those on both sides of the battlefield. It is a great lesson for children to learn.

    I'm glad that your son enjoyed it as well and had a lot of questions about the time period and how mining conditions related to the rescue of the Chilean miners. What a great way to start a discussion regarding safe working conditions.

    Best wishes,
    Tribute Books